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USDA, DOE partner on energy technology in rural America

Agencies seek to develop technologies that will support and advance rural and agricultural communities and domestic manufacturing.

U.S. Department of Agriculture deputy undersecretary Donald “DJ” LaVoy and U.S. Department of Energy undersecretary Mark W. Menezes have announced a memorandum of understanding (MOU) between the two departments to promote rural energy and the development of technologies that will support and advance rural and agricultural communities and domestic manufacturing.

The signed MOU, which was required under section 6501 of the 2018 farm bill, will enhance collaboration and coordination between DOE and USDA. The areas covered by the MOU include facilitating energy-related investments in America's rural communities; streamlining, leveraging and optimizing program resources; encouraging innovation; offering technical assistance to rural communities; strengthening energy-related infrastructure; ensuring affordable and reliable power, and helping rural businesses export energy products and manufactured goods around the world.

“Energy creates jobs, supports local infrastructure expansion and provides new opportunities to increase economic development in rural communities,” LaVoy said. “The bright and innovative minds in rural communities working to develop and utilize new energy technology should know that the Trump Administration supports their mission and efforts to increase prosperity in rural America. I’m grateful that USDA is partnering with DOE to help farmers, ranchers, foresters and businesses in rural communities thrive.”

Menezes added, “This MOU will do an immeasurable amount of good for our rural communities. Rural America deserves the investments in energy infrastructure, technology and businesses that will be produced by this MOU. By working together, DOE and USDA will follow through on President [Donald] Trump’s promise to emphasize and focus on the needs of these hardworking communities across America in an unprecedented way.”

USDA and DOE have convened interagency working groups. The working groups will focus on five major areas: (1) develop and expand energy- and manufacturing-related businesses, industries and technologies in rural America, (2) encourage investments in new or improved rural energy infrastructure, (3) enhance capital access for energy-related businesses and industries in rural America, (4) support rural community investments that anticipate growth associated with rural energy investment and development and (5) encourage, support and invest in cybersecurity initiatives and grid improvement.

The working groups will be co-chaired by representatives of USDA and DOE. They will meet at least quarterly and prepare a report to each secretary within a year of the first meeting and each year thereafter regarding actions and projects on which the departments will collaborate.

In April 2017, Trump established the Interagency Task Force on Agriculture & Rural Prosperity to identify legislative, regulatory and policy changes that could promote agriculture and prosperity in rural communities. In January 2018, Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue presented the task force’s findings to the President. These findings included 31 recommendations to align the federal government with state, local and tribal governments to take advantage of opportunities that exist in rural America. The task force recognized that boosting all sources of energy, including renewable sources, is essential to achieving energy independence, strengthening national security and bolstering the economy of rural America.

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